World gay capital…Tel Aviv?

Yesterday saw the start of the International Gay and Lesbian Tourism Association (IGLTA) convention in Tel Aviv, an event that is expected to mark the start of Tel Aviv’s campaign to become a rock star on the gay vacation circuit.

Israel has recently become an attractive destination for the worldwide gay community, especially as Israel is perceived as largely extremely tolerant of its own gay community (apart from the odd blip…). It might not be on a par with other leading destinations for the gay community, which include Berlin, the acclaimed gay capital of Europe, but what with recent campaigns by El Al and the Tourism Ministry, there is a clear trend definitely geared towards bringing in more gay vacationers and, to be more precise, their holiday dollars (which apparently, indicated by the ever-growing number of gay holiday package deals, seem recession proof).

In parallel with the convention, a number of travel agents that specialize in gay vacations will be here in the Holy Land this week, checking out some of the must-see sites in Israel, meeting some of the more significant members of the gay community in Israel, and also visiting some of the more popular gay hangouts in Tel Aviv.

The convention was organized by the Tel Aviv municipality’s tourism foundation and in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Association and the Tel Aviv Hotel Association. While here on behalf of the IGLTA (which has more than 1,500 members representing airlines, car rental companies, hotels, travel agencies and more, and operates in 65 countries around the world) will be its Executive Director John Tanzella.

Next Sunday in Tel Aviv will see an interesting closing session of the convention, as leading branding consultants Outnow will examine the Tel Aviv brand as seen by the worldwide gay community (monitored through surveys taken in England, Germany and the US).

Of course, some within and beyond Israel’s borders will be upset about the idea of gay tourism to the Holy Land. We say the Holy Land should be open to all, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual persuasion; this part of the world has seen so much bloodshed and heartbreak and hatred, isn’t it time we just got past all that and accepted people for what they are…?

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